After reading my third book by Kathryn Erskine, I decided it was time to read her earliest books. Erskine often writes about tolerance and understanding. Quaking is no exception.
In an interview with her, Erkskine states that the broad reason for exploring these themes if her belief that “the world would be a better place if we had greater acceptance of people’s differences and really listened to and understood each other.” Through a Quaker family and a militant teacher, Erksine explores attitudes both in favor of and against American participation in the war in the Middle East. On a smaller scale, through her main character Matt, Erskine shows the impact of bullying on children, students, and even adults. A victim of child abuse, Matt is afraid to allow anyone to get close to her, but must confront those fears when her new family’s life is in danger due to their pacifist beliefs.
I have to admit to taking longer to become comfortable with Quaking than Erskine’s later books. Matt seems to endlessly interject her opinions. After the first few chapters, I felt the way my husband must on those days when I babble about teaching, writing, and feelings. I also felt the antagonists were more stereotyped bullies than I have grown used to seeing portrayed by Erskine. The history teacher develops a vendetta against Matt after her responses to his first test, but doesn’t seem to target anyone else. A classmate also develops a quick dislike for Matt, for reasons that never seemed clear, and again he seems to mostly target her.
One reason I elected to read Quaking is that Matt struck me as a potential anti-hero or troubled teen. As some of my regular visitors might recall, these type of characters interest me due to my featuring them in my own creative writings. Once Matt settled into her new life with a Quaker family, she developed soft edges. The Quaker family feels realistic, being both caring but also capable of being hurt and of making mistakes. Other friendships crop up too, which also seem natural. Over all, it seems as if writing about misfits is a tough task, but Erskine does a reasonable job, which means Quaking will one day become part of my own library.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?